Community: Keep us informed

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jaime Bordenave, left, a consultant with The Community Group, and Dan Simmons, the development director for Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, take questions from stakeholders at a meeting about the planning process for revitalizing some SRHA housing communities and the surrounding areas.

About 30 people turned out on Monday night for a community stakeholders meeting on a planning process the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority is undertaking.

The local agency received a grant of $255,656 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to plan an overhaul to its Cypress Manor and Parker Riddick housing communities, as well as revitalization efforts for the entire area.

The stakeholders meeting on Monday night included four residents of the communities, as well as Vice Mayor Charles Brown, a couple of Planning Commission members, representatives from HUD and several citizens.

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The grant was one of 13 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants totaling $3.6 million given throughout the country to help with efforts to revitalize housing.

“This is a very exciting time to have an opportunity to make a transformation in our city,” Brown said.

Officials hope not only to revitalize the public housing but also to provide educational and employment opportunities for residents within the target area, which covers several square miles.

Citizens at the meeting expressed a desire to be informed and involved with the process more than anything else.

“I think it’s important for all the stakeholders to know who’s going to do what first,” said William Goodman, a resident of a nearby neighborhood and also a Planning Commission member.

“It’s critical that you keep not only the residents of the two projects involved,” but also residents and businesses in the surrounding community, said Ross Boone, who also lives nearby.

Jaime Bordenave, a consultant with The Community Group who has been working on the project, said the authority intends to keep everyone involved in the process by using focus groups and having a website devoted to the project.

“The intent is to involve the entire area in the process,” he said. “There will be ample community participation.”

He said the process also would involve representatives from as many organizations and areas as possible.

By way of keeping the residents informed, Bordenave encouraged those in attendance not to move immediately.

“That puts fear in people’s minds” when people start talking about remodeling their homes, he said. He assured them that if the project comes to fruition, the housing authority would have the resources to assist with moving costs and that residents would be able to return.

The housing authority will be applying for an implementation grant from HUD, said Dan Simmons, development director for the authority. That will help pay for actually completing the project once the planning is complete.